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Awesome things to do in Japan – EAT!


When exploring the world, I think one of the things that gets people excited the most is food. Well, maybe that’s just me. Boyfriend and I are going to Turkey soon and the first thing we arranged was to go on a food tour in Istanbul. It’s very important to us!

But when I was in Japan, I had so many interesting and rare food opportunities, so I thought I’d share some of them with you. I spent ages on my computer searching for lots of photos I’d taken of food from Japan and it was so much fun reliving the memories. I guess it’s a good thing I am obsessed with taking photos of food!!

The photo above was taken in Kobe. I’m sure many of you know that Kobe is famous for it’s beef. Japanese people have a very different view on what makes good meat – they much prefer it if there are ribbons of fat going though as they say it makes the meat sweeter. They are really shocked when westerners go to Japan and cut off the fat on their steak, or turn down meat that has a high fat content.

Kobe beef has fat running through it and this makes it EXPENSIVE. I went to Kobe with my colleagues from the junior high school (like a school trip…but for teachers haha) and in the planned itinerary we went to this really expensive Kobe beef restaurant. The lunch alone was 7000yen – around 50 euros. I was ok with this price as I was doing well for money but there was a catch – I had a stinking cold and couldn’t taste a thing. Luckily, at the table where the man was preparing our food, there was a small mountain of wasabi mustard. I decided to take a mouthful of wasabi that opened up my nose, then crammed in a bit of the beef, which I could only taste for a few seconds before my nose closed up again. I was SO sad.

Luckily I lived near to Matsusaka which has very similar beef and so I could try something similar again, but I was just sad that I couldn’t taste my 7000yen lunch!!


When I was studying in Nagoya, I didn’t make so many friends with the Japanese students at the uni. My closest friends were actually the Korean exchange students. They were all very warm and welcoming, they spoke very good Japanese so I didn’t miss out linguistically, and they were just very open and wonderful people. One of the closest friends I made there was a girl named “Arumu”. I’ve visited her in Seoul twice now and I am planning on going again next year.

When we were studying together, Arumu had a part time job in a Japanese restaurant. But this wasn’t just any restaurant; it was a Nagoyan speciality eel restaurant. I would go and visit her and she’d show me how to eat it (the meal shown above). First, you eat half of the food in the top left bowl. It’s basically rice with grilled eel and sauce. Then, once you’ve eaten half, you pour green tea from the tea pot into the rice and eel and eat the rest with a spoon. It’s SUPER yummy.


Towards the end of my working life in Japan, the city invited me to speak at a formal event with some government officials. Basically, they wanted to know how to make Japan/my area more appealing to foreigners and I was chosen to speak about the kinds of problems we face on a day to day basis there. I have no idea why such high up government officials were interested in our little city but anyway. It was a huge deal.

After the event, there was a buffet for us all. It was the most lavish buffet I have ever seen; they really went to town. I hovered over the plate in the photo above. I knew that I didn’t like the things in the shells (sazae) because they get really bitter if you eat the tip and I never know how much to bite off to avoid hitting that point. So I stuck to the yellow meat to the left.

I put two or so pieces on my plate then turned away from the table to eat a bite of one. I came face to face with the minister for tourism. He asked me if I knew what it was that I was eating. I replied that it was pretty chewy so perhaps it was some kind of squid…but he replied saying that it was shark meat. I dropped the piece I had on my chopsticks and listened as he told me how Japanese fishermen often partake in cutting the fins off of sharks and then throwing them back in the water to die a slow death, and how we shouldn’t support that. I didn’t eat any more of the shark after that…(it wasn’t that tasty anyway).


**For some reason the penis hot dog photo doesn’t show up…have this photo of me talking to tv cameras about penises.

You’d be forgiven if you thought there was something a little rude about that sausage. That’s because it’s a penis sausage. No, it doesn’t contain penis (to my knowledge) but I ate it at the fertility festival in a town near to where I studied in Japan. The festival started with a parade of massive wooden penises, where I (as one of the few white people in the crowd) was invited to kiss the penis for “good luck” (translation: great headlines – “FOREIGNER LOVES PENIS”.. yes I was on the news that day). Then we made our way around the festival stalls where they were selling phallic foods like bananas and sausages, as well as wooden penises of our own to take home.

Although it was way too crowded and I wouldn’t go again, it was certainly an experience I won’t forget!

Now a question for you! What’s the strangest food you’ve ever eaten?


Frankfurt/Nintendo Q&A


Recently I have had an increase in the amount of people finding me on Facebook/Linkedin to ask me questions about working for Nintendo and living in Frankfurt. I write this blog because I want to help people, and while I don’t mind the odd person contacting me, I would prefer it if people used the things on my blog before going out to find me.

I have decided to write a post with all the most common questions I get asked, so hopefully this will get found before people click on the “send message” button!!

How do I get a job at Nintendo of Europe?

Have a look at this site for all the latest positions available and apply through that site. As much as I’d love to help everyone who applies, I actually can’t and it’s not fair if I do. Plus the fact I’m not really comfortable talking about work related things to people who randomly find me on the net. I’m sorry. Nintendo is a normal work place and so you should just treat this application as you would any other regular job out there.

What’s it like living in Germany?

It’s probably one of the best places to be in Europe right now. It’s pretty safe, clean and financially secure. German people are funny and interesting to observe and live amongst. It’s easy to find gluten free products, and I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place that’s more open to vegetarians and vegans. Organic is a complete way of life here and it’s easy to live a healthy life.

Advice from other posts:

4 Frustrating things bout Germany.

5 Things No One Told Me About Living Abroad.

Gluten Free in Frankfurt.

But aren’t the taxes super high there? Can I live a good life there?

Well, yes. I think I pay something like 45% in taxes (I may be wrong in that). I know working as an English teacher here is often a financially tough career, but most company workers are paid enough for the net salary to be enough to live well in Frankfurt. Some things are much cheaper here, like I don’t pay much on rent because I live in a great flatshare, and I don’t find food to be that expensive here. German supermarkets have fewer offers than, for example, British supermarkets. Don’t expect to fill your trolley with “buy one get one free” offers. But the overall price of food does tend to be cheaper. I tend to avoid the main supermarket, Rewe, and shop at Indian, Chinese and Turkish shops instead.

Eating out can get expensive. You can expect to pay around 10 euros for a meal, a beer is about 3 euros (here is a typical German restaurant’s menu) but soft drinks like coke can be the expensive part of the meal.

Mobile phone contracts vary greatly in price. I pay quite a lot for mine (around 50 a month) but asking around, most people pay much less than that for their smart phones. A lot of people use pay-as-you-go phones, as well. Check out this site for a list of mobile/cell phone companies.

The company has offered me a ___________ salary/What salary should I ask for?

I can’t really talk much about this. Luckily, Toytown forum has lots of advice!

Can I get home comforts easily?

Well, it depends what you want. I can get pretty much anything I crave from Japan (though not the magazines and books any more since the Japanese book shop closed). There are various Japanese and Chinese supermarkets around that can sell you anything from Calpis to natto. There are also a LOT of great Japanese restaurants around. For British things, British sauces and branded food items can be found in the department stores Galeria and Karstadt. Aldi also does “British week” sometimes, too. There are a lot of American expats here and you can find lots of American foods in the Rewe in the basement of My Zeil.

German clothes shopping is pretty crappy, but we have H&M, Zara and Primark here. has free international delivery so I use that most of the time.

What about finding a place to live?!

I wrote a very detailed post about this some time ago. It should cover everything you could ever need to know about finding a place to live in Germany. LINK HERE!

From my recent messages, these seem to be all the most common questions. If I haven’t answered something that you want to know, check out Toytown for lots and lots of German life info, or just pop the question in the comments of this post.

Things I Wish People Had Told Me About Studying Abroad


The other day I read quite a nice article on “Things I Wish People Told Me While Studying Abroad“. A lot of what that website posts is pretty brain draining but it was a nice article and I thought I’d throw my 5p into the pot as well.

In 2007/08 I studied at a girls’ university in Nagoya, Japan. Coming from a class of mainly boys, it was a parallel universe for me, and that’s not even factoring that it’s a Christian university! Nevertheless, it was possibly the best year of my life so far.

So, now that you have my exchange student backstory, here is my list!

1. Do your research.

There are certain things that you may not be able to get in the place you’re going to study in. For example, the Japanese don’t sweat so much and so deodorant isn’t so common. So, if you are going to live there for a while, you should take enough to last you through. It’s always better to do some research so you end up taking with you the right things, even if it means you sound a little silly; I can’t remember how many times I’ve been asked if they have tampons in Japan (the answer is yes – they do. And yes, they ‘fit’ western women, too. They’re just a little expensive.)

2. Shun your countryfolk.

This is going to be controversial.

When I went to Japan, I went there wanting to learn as much Japanese as humanly possible. In my uni course it was common for our weekly test scores to be read out loud to us all by the teacher, and I wanted to come back and be at the top of the class so I’d never feel the embarrassment of having low scores again.

In my class in Liverpool, I was pretty much the only girl, and so I was sent by myself to the girls’ university, while everyone else was paired off and sent away. It was hard because at times I felt real pangs of loneliness, but it was awesome at the same time because I made friends mainly with people who weren’t from English speaking countries. When I visited my classmates in Fukuoka at the end of October I saw that they had a great community of English and American people to enjoy Japan with. It seemed really nice and friendly, and that was great, but I was kind of glad that at my university my friendship circle were Korean, Thai and Japanese people, and that I was forced to speak only in Japanese with them.

If you are studying abroad to learn a language, I highly recommend being stuck up and shunning people who are also native in English. You won’t be popular, you will be looked down upon by others, but you will make that language your default language and improve at a much higher rate.

Living in Germany and trying to learn German now, I really wish I could have a situation like I did back in Japan.

3. Do all the things.

Being an exchange student is very different to being a working expat. As a working expat, and as an adult, not only do I work full time but there’s all this horrid grown-up stuff like life admin. Taxes, student loan forms, papers for this and signatures needed for that…it’s all a massive faff. And all this faff and all this work means that it’s hard to just enjoy all the things your adoptive home has to offer. Lots of people I know go off at the weekends to various German places but I never get round to doing that.

As an exchange student, nothing much is expected from you. You have a few hours’ classes a day, maybe a part time job to keep the beer money flowing, but that’s it. I did SO much in that one year in Nagoya. It was awesome, and I recommend that anyone going to study abroad just does ALL the things. Not only all the touristy things, but also regular things like going to the hairdressers, eating the local speciality, eating the craziest food you can find, perhaps even dating a local. Make a bucket list and tick all the things off. They all make for amazing stories.

4. Culture shock IS going to happen.

I talk about culture shock in a lot more detail in this other post I wrote about living abroad in general, but it still applies to studying abroad as well. It’s good to keep in mind that you will have days when you feel really negative towards the country, and days when you just can’t get your head around why something is done a certain way there when it’s so much better/different back home. It’s completely ok to be like this – it doesn’t make you racist or a bad person. It’s simply the process you go through when spending time abroad.

5. Don’t forget to take a slice of home with you.

Life as an exchange student is probably the first time living abroad for many people. It can be a very challenging experience, though it’s one I wish more people would go through. It depends on the person, but it’s usually a good idea to take with you things that remind you of home. I have a stash of photos of my friends from school and of my family that I take with me and pin on my bedroom wall wherever I am in the world. It’s also a good idea to take with you some comfort food with you like your favourite chocolate or cookies, and save it for a day when you wish you were back home. Music is also a good idea as well – I never really listened to UB40 or Fairground Attraction until I lived abroad; now I listen to them when I miss my family because that’s the music my mum listens to.

There is probably lots and lots more advice for exchange students out there, so please get in the comments if you have something that I missed! And just in case you have no extra advice to add – when/if you live abroad, do you prefer to go out of your way in making friends with the locals? Or do you prefer to surround yourself with people from your home country?



The other day I introduced a new co-worker to my pub quiz team. My American and German friend said that they really loved his accent; he’s a well educated British guy…well aside from the British and guy part, I said I assume he was well educated – you can tell from his accent. I was trying to explain to them that while, on the surface, it seems that Britain doesn’t have class systems anymore, you can tell a person’s upbringing, education and “class” by their accent.

Accent is a funny thing. I read a paper when I was in uni about how different accents make you feel certain ways, and so companies take advantage of this – for example, the Scottish accent will make you warm to the person and feel calm, so they put a lot of Scottish people in call centres. I had trouble in uni because of my accent – I have a typical RP, or “Queen’s English” accent, which usually tells people that you are well off and posh and stuck up. So this is how people thought of me, despite me telling people that I am normal, went to an average school and lived in some pretty rough areas when I grew up. People would take what I said and twist them to make it sound like I was looking down my nose at people, or just make rude and snide comments about my accent.

In Britain there is a north-south divide which I wasn’t even aware of until I went to uni. I’m from the south, and while people sometimes make jokes about Liverpudlians, or maybe about people from Newcastle, there’s rarely any bad mouthing of people from the north in general. The stuff I experienced at uni in Liverpool was just one part of it – when I was dating a guy from Middlesborough and I went to go stay with his family up there, his uncles and cousins had lots of stories and comments about how rude and stuck up and horrible southern people are. So when someone speaks the way I speak, all these images are brought up for a lot of people – even though I’m not like that.

On the flipside, my accent can (sadly) help me out in the working world – or at least in England. I’m not sure how true it is, but I’m told that people with RP accents are more likely to score top jobs and make good impressions in interviews. In an article I read this week, too, a brain surgeon comments that him being an East London boy is an unexpected thing, given his profession. Again, this comes down to accent – people don’t expect people with a “rough” London accent to do such a skilled job as brain surgery. Another good example is this woman from BBC News –

Screen shot 2013-03-26 at 7.55.35 AM

Most BBC news presenters have “clean” southern accents, but she has a very strong northern accent. She’s the business woman on the show and often explains all the complicated¬†economical news, but some people find her accent very off putting, or out of place in this job.

Even my American friend couldn’t understand when I explained all this to her, so I think maybe, in the English-speaking world at least, it’s a British thing. Are there stereotypes or prejudice placed on certain accents where you are from?

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